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The Arabic word hadith basically means ‘an item of news, conversation, a tale, a story or a report,’ whether historical or legendary, true or false, relating to the present or the past. Its secondary meaning as an adjective is ‘new’ as opposed to qadeem, ‘old’. However, like other Arabic words (e.g. salaah, zakaah), its meaning changed in Islaam. From the time of the Prophet (ρ), his stories and communications dominated all other forms of communication. Consequently, the term hadith began to be used almost exclusively for reports which spoke of his actions and sayings.
The Fundamentals of Hadeeth Studies, P. 4
During the life of the Prophet (ρ) there was no pressing need to write down all of his various statements or record his actions because he was present and could be consulted at any time. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (ρ) himself made a general prohibition against writing down his statements which were other than the Qur’aan itself. This was to prevent the possibility of mixing up the Qur’aan with his own words during the era of revelation. Consequently, the greatest stress regarding writing was placed on recording the Qur’aanic verses. However, there are many authentic narrations collected by the Scholars of Hadith, that prove that Hadith were recorded in writing even during the lifetime of the Prophet (ρ). For example, ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr said: “I used to write everything which I heard from the Messenger of Allaah (ρ) with the intention of memorizing it. However, some Qurayshites forbade me from doing so saying, ‘Do you write everything that you hear from him, while the Messenger of Allaah is a human being who speaks in anger and pleasure?’ So I stopped writing, and mentioned it to the Messenger of Allah (ρ). He pointed with his finger to his mouth and said: ‘Write! By Him in whose hand is my soul, only truth comes out from it.’
Aboo Hurayrah said: When Makkah was conquered, the Prophet (ρ) stood up and gave a sermon [Aboo Hurayrah then mentioned the sermon]. A man from Yemen, called Aboo Shaah got up and said, “O Messenger of Allaah! Write it down for me.” The Messenger of Allaah (ρ) replied, “Write it for Aboo Shaah.”14 Al-Waleed asked Aboo ‘Amr, “What are they writing?” He replied, “The sermon which he heard that day.”
Aboo Qaabeel said: We were with ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas and he was asked which city will be conquered first Constantinople or Rome? So ‘Abdullaah called for a sealed trunk and he said, “Take out the book from it.” Then ‘Abdullaah said, “While we were with the Messenger of Allaah (ρ) writing, The Messenger of Allaah (ρ) was asked, “Which city will be conquered first, Constantinople or Rome?” So Allaah’s Messenger (ρ) said: “The city of Heracilius will be conquered first.” meaning Constantinople.”
The Fundamentals of Hadeeth Studies, P. 8
Hadith Saheeh (authentic; sound)
Conditions of Sihhah
A hadith must meet the following five criteria in order to be accepted according to Islamic law as a source of legal ordinance.
1. Ittisaal as-Sanad (Continuity of the chain of transmitters)
The chain of Rawwaah (narrators or transmitters) who are relating the Matn (text), has to be unbroken for the hadith to be considered. That is none of the transmittors must be missing from the chain and each narrator, Raawi, has to have met the transmitter directly preceding him as well as the one directly following him. Each Raawi has to be a known individual also, otherwise he is classified as majhool (unknown) and the sanad is considered broken.
2. ‘Adaalah (integrity)
The integrity of the narrators is the second key condition for a hadith to be considered valid. By integrity we mean that the narrator was a practicing Muslim and was not known to have done any of the major (forbidden things) if he was a known liar he is classified as kaththaab and the hadith which he has transmitted is classified as da‘eef. These are the conditions verified through the biographical science of hadith Kutub ar-Rijaal.
3. Dabt (accuracy)
The accuracy of the text is determined by two factors either of which is sufficient by itself
(a) Dabt as-Sadr (Soundness of memory)
Each narrator must be known for his ability to memorize and repeat with a high degree of accuracy if he had a tendency to repeat hadith in a number of different ways such a hadith in classified as Mudtarib (confused) and any other hadith which he may narrate will be classified ad Da‘eef.
(b) Dabt al-Kitaabah (Written accuracy)
Each narrator who does not fulfill precondition “a”, must be known for recording his haetth in books accurately and his narrations only be from his books, these two preconditions (a,b) are also verified by Kutub ar-Rijaal.
4. Ghayr Shaathth (conformity)
It is critical that the hadith confirmed with similar hadith narrated on the same topic whose chains are stronger. If the test of a hadith contradicts that of other well-known texts whose chain of narration is stronger, it is classified (exceptional) which is one of the categories of hadith dae’ef.
5. Laa ‘Illah (absence of hidden defect)
The hidden defect is one that causes the hadith to appear to be sound and only become evident after deep investigation. For a hadith to be considered sound (saheeh) it has to be free of hidden defects.
A hadith which fulfills all the five conditions of sihhah is referred to as a hadith Saheeh. Such a hadith can be used to establish points of Islaamic law and, if it isn’t abrogated, it must be accepted and applied. The ruling of a hadith saheeh can only be superceded by that of another hadith saheeh stronger than it.
The hadith Saheeh may be further subdivided into Saheeh li Thaatih and Saheeh li Ghayrih. Hadiths fulfilling the five conditions completely were also referred to as Saheeh li Thaatih. That is, it is saheeh by itself, without any external considerations. The Saheeh li Ghayrih is a hadith hasan which has been elevated to the status of saheeh due to supporting narrations.
Hadith Hasan (good)
A hadith is considered Hasan if it fulfills all the requirements of Saheeh except Dabt (accuracy). If the memory of a narrator was only considered fair (sadooq), that is, he was known to make a few mistakes. The hadith is lowered from the level of saheeh to the level of Hasan. In the early days, there was no distinction made between the hadith saheeh and the hadith hasan. The hadith hasan is valid for establishing points of Islaamic law and should not be rejected unless abrogated or superseded by a hadith saheeh. This category is also called Hasan li Thaatih as distinct from a second category of hasan hadiths called Hasan li Ghayrih.
Hadith Hasan li Ghayrih
If the narrator belonged to a lower grade (i.e. grades 5 or 6 rendering the hadith da‘eef) and there are other hadiths supporting it in form or sense, it would be reclassified as hasan li ghayrih. It should be noted that the overall acceptability of an isnaad is based on its weakest link. Consequently, if all of the narrators were highly reliable (thiqah) and one, anywhere in the chain was classified as a liar (kaththaab), the hadith would be classified as fabricated, even if proved authentic by other isnaads.
Hadith Da‘eef (weak)
This is a hadith in which any one or more of the five conditions of Sihhah have not been met. It is also referred to in classical works as al-Khabar al-Mardood (Rejected Narrations). The inauthentic hadith is one in which the truth of the report is highly unlikely due to the loss of one or more of the conditions for the acceptance. Some da‘eef hadiths may be reclassified due to supportive factors while others are totally rejected. The inauthentic hadith may be further subdivided into different categories based on which of the five criteria has not been met.
The Fundamentals of Hadeeth Studies, P. 24-25
Resources on Hadith:
- Sciences of Hadith by Suhaib Hasan (audio)
- The Sciences Of Hadith by Bilal Philips (audio)
- Usool ul Hadith by Yasir Qadhi (audio)
- Terminology of Hadith and Methodology of Hadith Scholars by Tariq Abdelhaleem
- Notes on Science of Hadith Extracted from “Tayseer Mustalahil Hadith” by Mahmood at-Tahhaan
- Notes on Ibn Hajar’s Nukhbatul Fikr
- Hadiths: False Tales or Authentic Narrations?
- Ulum al-Hadith Curriculum by islamclass.wordpress.com
- An Introduction to the Conservation of Hadith : In the Light of the Sahifah of Hammam ibn Munabbih by Muhammad Hamidullah
- An Introduction to the Science of Hadith by Suhaib Hassan
- An Introduction to the Science of Hadith by Ibn al-Salah al-Shahrazuri
- Usool al-Hadeeth : The Methodology of Hadith Evaluation by Bilal Philips
- Studies in Early Hadith Literature by M.M. Azami
- Studies in Hadith Methodology & Literature by M.M. Azami
- Imam Nawawi 40 Hadith with Explanation by Ibn Daqîq al-‘îd’s